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Environmental groups opposed to B.C. port expansion hold rally ahead of court date

Ships are loaded with coal at terminals in Delta, B.C., on Wednesday Feb. 19, 2014, as seen from a National Aerial Surveillance Program flight. The plan to build a new shipping container terminal the size of nearly 144 football fields at a major Metro Vancouver port has sparked a rival proposal along with concerns for endangered orcas and the salmon species they depend on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Ships are loaded with coal at terminals in Delta, B.C., on Wednesday Feb. 19, 2014, as seen from a National Aerial Surveillance Program flight. The plan to build a new shipping container terminal the size of nearly 144 football fields at a major Metro Vancouver port has sparked a rival proposal along with concerns for endangered orcas and the salmon species they depend on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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Environmental groups that launched a legal challenge against a port expansion in B.C. are heading to court Monday morning.

Over the last year, the coalition has called for the federal government to change course from its plan to build a new terminal at Roberts Bank, which they say will have severe impacts on marine life.

In the spring of 2023, the group raised concerns that the terminal would disrupt “critical habitat” for roughly 70 endangered south resident killer whales.

Ecojustice, the law organization representing the group, said the construction would go against the Species at Risk Act.

The federal government approved the project in April 2023, subject to 370 legally binding conditions to protect local environments and species that may be impacted by the expansion.

The Vancouver Port Authority believes the project will add an additional 50 per cent capacity, and without it, would cost the Canadian GDP $3 billion due to bottlenecks and space constraints.

In September, the province also issued the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority an environmental assessment certificate, which followed the federal approval.

The province said then that the assessment was conducted by a federal review panel on behalf of both levels of government.

“It involved extensive consultation with technical experts, federal and provincial agencies, local governments, 48 First Nations and the public,” said the provincial statement.

The port authority said, as part of the project, it would create 86 hectares of new marine habitat in an effort to offset impacts to juvenile salmon and Dungeness crab.

The conservationists are joined by the longshoremen's union, which has taken issue with the automation of the industry and the potential of robots replacing many workers at the proposed terminal.

The port authority says the project will create thousands of construction jobs, and when finished, would employ 1,500 workers on site.

The labour union and the conservation groups will hold a joint press conference and rally outside of the courthouse before entering on Monday morning.

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Ben Miljure and The Canadian Press.

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